Airlines hit by COVID-19 start applying for government aid
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Friday is the first deadline for airlines to apply for $50 billion in federal loans and grants to help them survive this public health crisis.
The money comes with conditions. Airlines have to keep their employees on the books, and they have to maintain a certain number of flights, even if that means empty planes.
The drop off in the number of people flying has been dramatic, according to airline industry analyst Robert Mann.
“The traffic and associated revenue has essentially gone down almost 94% from the year prior in about 4 weeks,” Mann said.
He says United, Delta and American have parked almost their entire international fleets, and domestically will fly about 60% to 70% fewer flights than at this time in 2019. And the flights that are still flying are losing money, Mann adds, because they’re not carrying many passengers.
But, to qualify for the full government assistance, Airlines can’t just ground all their planes. They can reduce the number of flights, but have to maintain service to major hubs.
According to Samuel Engel, aviation consultant at ICF, that’s explained by the same logic that says airlines are important enough to the economy to need a bailout in the first place: that airlines are a “critical national infrastructure,” carrying health care and other essential workers right now, as well as goods and supplies.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?
It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.
How are Americans spending their money these days?
Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
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